PSNI says ‘appalling’ attack on ten Jewish graves was a hate crime

The PSNI say they are “appalled” by an attack on ten Jewish graves in west Belfast and are treating it as a hate crime.

Sunday, 18th April 2021, 4:29 pm
Updated Sunday, 18th April 2021, 6:27 pm
Damage to gravestones in the Jewish section of Belfast's City Cemetery. About 10 graves in the cemetery on the Falls Road in west Belfast were damaged on Thursday evening. Police said the incident is being investigated as a hate crime. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.

The graves were seriously damaged in Belfast City Cemetery on the Falls Road on Thursday.

Some of the graves date back to the 1870s and are in a walled-off section of the cemetery, which is often locked.

PSNI Inspector Róisín Brown said: “I am appalled at these criminal acts. The City Cemetery, like any graveyard, is a place where members of the community come to pay their respects. The damage to these graves shows a total lack of respect for others and will have a significant impact on individuals and families within the Jewish Community.

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“We are investigating this incident as a hate crime, but we need help from the local community in West Belfast to hold those responsible to account for their actions.”

Shoshana Appleton, an Israeli-born member of Belfast’s Jewish community, said the incident followed similar attacks on the graves five years ago after which she thought the area had been sealed off.

“When there is unrest anywhere in the world it seems Jews in any community are an easy target for what is going wrong,” she said.

“I know it is a small minority of people who do this and they would like us to complain about anti-semitism. But in reality the people behind this sort of thing are usually anti-everything - anti-society, anti-police and anti-government.”

She wondered if recent Israeli remembrance events might have prompted the attacks.

“In the past fortnight Israel has marked Holocaust Memorial, the foundation of the state and A day of remembrance for its fallen soldiers. Maybe it all brought Israel into sharp focus?”

Sinn Féin councillor Steven Corr attended the graveyard on Friday to help with the clean up.

Writing on social media, he said “these attacks on the headstones of dead people need to stop”.

North Belfast DUP MLA William Humphrey said he was “disgusted and appalled” by the attack. “This is a very sad day for Belfast,” he said. “I have nothing but the highest regard for the Belfast Jewish community, which continues to have my full support,” he said. “Those behind this appalling anti-Semitic attack are evil. A graveyard is a sacred place.”

Police have appealed for witnesses who saw anyone acting suspiciously or who has information to contact them on tel 101 quoting reference 713/16/04/21 at www.psni.police.uk/makeareport/ or on Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

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